It’s open enrollment season again for those self-employed or early retirees that receive their health insurance through the Affordable Care Act Marketplace - healthcare.gov. The deadline to enroll for coverage is December 15th, 2018, if you want your coverage to start on January 1st, 2019.
Here are my list of best practices when signing up for health insurance coverage through the ACA:
Know Your Income. When completing your application, you want to enter your expected income for 2019. If you are eligible for premium subsidies, you will be able to apply that subsidy to your monthly payments and pay a reduced rate throughout the year. Use this simple tool to see if you will be eligible for premium subsidies.
Compare Plans. It is more likely than not that you have new health insurance plans available to you in 2019. You need to carefully review the plans you are eligible for and sign up for the one that is most appropriate. Focus on premium levels, what the plans cover, deductible amounts, HSA eligibility, and which hospitals are in-network.
Avoid Automatic Enrollment. If you have been on an ACA health insurance plan in 2018, you may be automatically enrolled for 2019 if you don’t take action by December 15th. Due to changes in your income and the plans that are available, you want to confirm you are signed up for the best plan.
Gather Your Information. A comprehensive list of the information you will need to apply for coverage has been provided by the Marketplace. To get through the application process quickly, reference this list beforehand. It may also save you from having to call the customer service line to answer the question you have.
Update Your Income Throughout The Year. For self-employed individuals like myself, predicting our total annual income is difficult. Considering that premium subsidies are based on this number, and not our previous year’s income, updating your income is important. As 2019 progresses, if you see that your income will be lower or higher than originally predicted, update your Marketplace application as soon as possible. This will help keep the premium subsidies you receive accurate. If you take more subsidy throughout the year than you are eligible for, you will have to repay it when filing your taxes.
Ask For Help. If you have questions when applying for coverage, ask for help. The Marketplace has a search tool to find local help, or you can ask your personal financial planner.